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Suicide attempts at Hinkley Point put mental health in the spotlight

FRENCH energy giant EDF has said it is determined to tackle mental-health issues among workers building its Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant.

The company made the comments after the Unite union revealed that there had been 10 suicide attempts in the first four months of this year.

EDF confirmed that one person had taken their life while working at the site in Somerset but insisted that the firm was doing everything it could to prevent more deaths there.

Construction director Rob Jordan said: “Mental health is a serious problem in the construction industry and for many years not much was done to help people suffering from it.

“Here at Hinkley Point C, we are determined to take practical steps to help workers, as well as tackle the stigma surrounding mental health.

“It’s as important to us as dealing with industrial safety.

"From my experience of the construction industry, both here in the UK and overseas, I know that we are doing more to tackle the issue of mental health than on any other project.”

He said it was an “industry-wide issue” and EDF had recently won a health and safety award for its mental-health work at Hinkley.

Unite is warning of a toxic “man-up” culture in the construction industry, but the trade union said EDF was one of the better employers.

A Unite spokesperson said: “The fact that Hinkley Point has had these problems is particularly concerning because, unlike much of the industry, EDF has taken mental health seriously and worked with Unite, for instance in training workers and union activists in mental-health first aid.

“Unite believes the key factors behind mental-health problems in the construction industry are a result of the hire-and-fire culture where direct employment is low, engagements are short and most workers are either bogusly self-employed and/or recruited via agencies.

“This is coupled with workers frequently living away from loved ones, a long-hours culture in the industry and a macho culture.”

Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “It is deeply ironic that Hinkley has given rise to the exposure of the mental-health crisis in construction. Because Unite has a strong presence, the issue has got an airing.”

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